Daniel Ian Smith is a professional saxophonist and associate professor of Harmony at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. In fact, he was my Harmony professor while I was at Berklee. In the age of COVID, many musicians and music teachers are looking for routine, so I asked Dan about what his daily routine looks like as a professional saxophonist.
"My warm up is done via technical studies, scales or interval patterns and usually an etude and sight reading," Dan explains.
"[I'm] always working on a new piece of music, learning a tune (or 3), a series of chord changes, or music that I'm preparing for a gig/recording." Bonus points if you learn a new song in multiple keys!
"Sometimes incorporated with [learning songs] but usually I try and spend a focused amount of time just improvising for the sake of performing. What if I had the opportunity to play a concert all by myself at any given moment, what would I play? How can I create in the moment with clarity and fresh approaches. Using tunes I already know and just play them in different ways."
This is one of the Dan's more fascinating ideas. Not just practicing improvisation as it pertains to improvised solos, but improvising an entire song for the sake of performance. This requires you to truly know your instrument and engages your ear and imagination.
"I always try and set aside a little time each day to listen to something. Something I know or something new. Doesn't matter which."
"I've really tried to incorporate the act of composition into my daily routine over the last couple of years. Writing influences my playing and vice versa. Could be a few bars or a whole tune. This week I've been writing a tune a day which has been a great exercise."
I've been trying to write a short song every day as well. It's a great way to explore ideas and push your understanding of harmony and melody!
Do you have something interesting your daily routine? Let us know what it is in the comments below!
My name is Nick Dolan, and I'm an elementary music teacher and choir director. I'm here to talk about teaching music!